Saturday, April 16, 2016

Letter Home: The Strangeness of Greed and Human Motivations

Letter Home from Planet Earth, April 16th, 2016, local time

Dear All,

Hope everyone at Home is doing well!

I continue doing my best to integrate myself here on Planet Earth, but I have to confess that I am completely mystified by certain aspects of the Humans' behaviors and motivations. Lately, I have been considering their strange compulsions surrounding "wealth" and "greed," perhaps because it is very much in the news here, as part of the whole "Presidential Elections" circus, here in this country.

I realize that what I am about to describe here may sound completely alien to you, so I'll try to explain.

As best I can tell, Humans have little or no understanding of the concept "enough." Or "having enough," as it relates to living full and happy lives. Sometimes, I am not even sure they know what the word means. As a result, many engage in frightening "accumulation behaviors" unlike any I have seen before.

Try to imagine someone who works hard and provides well not only for their family and loved ones, but also for an extended family and friends. But rather than enjoy their lives, they continue "accumulating," always trying to get "more." In their existence, there is never such a thing as "enough." They are like squirrels collecting nuts for winter, except they keep collecting enough nuts to feed 1000 squirrels for 1000 winters.

Of course, I know people at Home aren't all "equal" and there are income and wealth differences, but the extremes on this planet are... well... extreme. And it is the cause of huge amounts of suffering on this planet.

For example, here in the United States, the 20 wealthiest individuals own more wealth than the lowest fifty percent. Think about that. That's 20 people vs. 150+ million people. If you want to expand the bracket a bit, the top 0.1% has as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

In real terms that might be better understood, it takes about 20 million "US Dollars" (the local form of payment) to be included in this top 0.1%. I can assure you that represents a lot of wealth; enough to comfortable support many many families. But that's not the whole of it-- many of these people are still trying to get more!

The thing that is very puzzling about it is that the Humans have conducted many studies on happiness and wealth (I think these things confuse them, too!), and these studies have repeatedly revealed that after a certain point, the amount of money you have does not actually make anyone any happier. Scholarly experts from one of their major centers of learning-- Princeton University-- did a huge study that showed that happiness does not materially increase once a person makes more than 75,000 US Dollars per year in income.

Can you see the paradox? The Humans tend to toil endlessly to obtain something that won't even make them any happier with their lives! As far as I can tell, the only material (and societal) "reward" is that huge numbers of other Humans are left suffering, as a result of these strange inequalities.

You might be wondering how such inequities are even possible for a civilization that stands at the threshold of becoming "advanced."

To be honest, I am not sure. "Fear" seems to be a primary motivator on this planet.

Specifically, the fear of "being without" seems to have driven many to lose their sense of common decency and compassion. Many Humans are very fearful of sharing what they have, but-- ironically-- those who have the least, are often the first to generously share.

Oddly enough, the Humans seem to have manufactured this paradigm, themselves. This planet is perfectly capable of sustaining the life living upon it, yet there is a deep rooted fear that there is "not enough" for everyone and-- indeed-- millions of humans do die needlessly every year because they don't have the very basics for survival. Maybe it is this latent fear of scarcity that causes Humans to hoard more than they actually need... more than enough.

When I consider it-- and think about how we live at Home-- I feel a little sick to my stomach, and in my soul.

Apologetics for the existing system seem to center their defense around the notions of "survival of the fittest" and "freedom" and the false idea that a society can only grow if individuals can be lured with disproportionate rewards for their contributions. Some also talk about their "rights" being violated, if certain rules and restrictions are applied. This country-- the United States-- seems to be obsessed with a strange passion for defending the rights of "The Individual," typically at the expense of the common good and well-being of all citizens. Maybe I am misunderstanding something, there.

It always leads me straight back to the evident Human lack of capacity to grasp the basic concept of "Enough." I keep wanting to ask the question "Why do you want MORE, when you already have enough?" Sometimes I get called "names" (that's a derogatory thing, I believe..) for my questions.

If we go back to the previous idea that you don't get materially happier once you make 75,000 dollars, and even allow for a doubling of that as a measure of "enough," why are Humans so obsessed with obtaining multiples in the 10's, 100's and even 1000's of these amounts? And why are they so resistant to the idea of "paying it back" to their communities, once a certain threshold is reached?

As is often the case, I end up with more questions than answers... and find myself rather powerless to offer suggestions that might help end the suffering on the planet.

They could really use a "Philanthropy and Community Tax" like we have at Home. Given their competitive nature, The Humans could even set it up as a social game, where rank and status as the most "important" person in the community (and society) was connected directly to the size of one's contributions to the betterment of all. They would even be celebrated as Heroes of Society. Alas, this thing called "personal greed" always seems to get in the way, and they harbor a deep mistrust of any rules that benefit the community, rather than individuals.

Well. I have written more than enough for now. I will continue to study this strange species and endeavor to understand what they are about... and report back as I learn more. In the meantime, I have mixed in some pretty images of this Spring season. This really can be a very beautiful place!

Till the next time, this is your faithful but somewhat baffled emissary on Planet Earth, signing off...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Letter Home: The Strange Convolutions of the US Election Process

Letter Home from Planet Earth, March 30th, 2016, local time

Dear All,

Even though I have been here for a long time, the Humans never cease to baffle me.

Here in this place they call "United States," the big thing of the moment continues to be the strange circus known as "Presidential elections," in which the citizens get to choose their new leader, according to the rules of their democratic process.

At its core, that process doesn't seem that different from how we do things at home... people cast a vote for the person they support, and the most popular candidate becomes leader.

I think, at least, that's how it's supposed to work.

But it doesn't really work that way.... not exactly.

Instead, there's this strange and very convoluted process in which people actually vote for other people known as "delegates" who supposedly represent their interests (but not necessarily?) in the process of putting forth a candidate to become leader, after which the people (again) vote (supposedly) for their candidate of choice, but actually are voting for other people known as "Electors" to vote for that candidate (but not necessarily), at the end of which someone officially becomes the leader.

On the whole, it seems the entire intervening process serves little purpose other than to attempt to "entertain" the people and "consume resources."

For the most part, very little is done to highlight and explain each candidate's skills, experience and qualifications for becoming the leader of 330 million people. I have tried to get various humans to explain the process to me, with little success.

What I did learn is that there seems to be the underlying notion that people truly qualified to be excellent leaders tend to seldom-- if ever-- apply for the position...

The Humans don't seem particularly concerned about this, although they do complain a lot about "the system," and how they "wish things were better" but then turn around and immediately claim they are powerless to make a difference.

If you ask the average Human about this whole process it's disturbing how ill-informed many are about their own world and how it operates, and how many seem more concerned with "being entertained" than with being an informed part of and influencing the future of their society and their own lives.

As best I can tell, there are two main factions: One group calls themselves "Republicans" and the platform of the front runner to represent that group as potential President suggests they are the "intolerance and violence" faction. They are referred to as "conservative" but I am yet to understand exactly what it is they want to conserve, because their actions seem more about destroying and excluding than conserving.

Have I mentioned how mystifying this planet is?

The other group calls themselves "Democrats" but they have two candidates that seem so different it doesn't quite make sense that they are part of the same allegiance... but on the whole the candidates present themselves as more equalistic and inclusive.

A lot of things on this planet don't make sense.

It seems that the candidate who is most passionate about making changes to the system also seems very popular with a large number of people... but is also seen as "unelectable" because he wants to make changes to a system people really want changed. Sometimes it seems like the Humans really don't want to change their system, they just want to have a broken system so they have something to complain about. Haven't quite figured it out, yet.

The single most baffling thing I am still trying to grasp is the fact that a lot of Humans in this country don't actually seem to want all citizens to be OK and housed and fed and cared for. Many hold this very strange belief that anyone "different from them" should be denied the basic rights of existence, or excluded, or even sent away. Seems to me they are all very afraid, but I haven't yet pinpointed what they are afraid of, exactly.

As I have written to you before, the Humans still have a long way to go before this becomes a Class B-4 planet.

Of course, there are good things here, too. The biodiversity is stunning and there is great natural beauty, so I am sharing a few pictures of that, with you. You might save those for the historical records, because the Humans-- as a whole-- don't seem to care much about the beauty of their planet.

Well, I am going to end for this time around and say "till the next time." I will continue my studies and attempt to understand this place better.